Ah, the Whispering Willow! Or just ‘The Willow’ if you’re trying to sound casual while nursing a frothy mug. This isn’t just any old tavern in Aurel’s Reach; it’s the place where half of my mischief has started… and maybe about a quarter of it has ended.
Perched right against the city’s imposing northern wall and merging with that magnificent redwood – it’s almost as if nature herself decided to raise a toast! From one side, you have the lively humdrum of the city, while the other gives you that calming rustle of the Eldergrove forest. Imagine being sandwiched between urban energy and tranquil nature, all while you’re sipping your third – or was it fourth? – mug of Bardin’s special brew.
Now, on the outside, The Willow seems like your classic tree-tavern architecture. A three-story wonder nestled right inside that monstrous redwood. If you lean against its bark, sometimes, on a windy day, you’d swear you can hear the old tree whispering. Probably telling the wood nymphs about the one time I spilled an entire plate of honey-roasted nuts all over a passing elven bard. But branching out (hah!), we have the two annexed buildings. One of them, I heard, is where they keep the extra barrels of ale, and trust me, it’s on my bucket list to sneak a peek. The other, rooms for those lucky enough to fetch them, or too drunk to haggle the price.
Stepping inside? Ah, it’s like wrapping yourself in a warm, golden hug! A kaleidoscope of lanterns and glowing orbs dangle overhead, probably gossiping about the day’s visitors. The furniture? Rich, ornately carved, probably by some master craftsman – though I once told a traveler it was done by a blindfolded elf with a penchant for abstract art. And those tapestries? They’re not just decorative fabric; they are pages right out of Eldergrove’s history, each thread spun with tales of yore. I’ve tried to ask Marna how the willow could afford these stories in thread and she just tells me “clearly you don’t keep an eye on your tab, Rye!”
The Food and Drink
Now, for the culinary enthusiasts (yes, I’m talking about my belly), the gastronomic wonders of this place deserve a saga of their own! The succulent roasted boar, glazed in a secret sauce, and that mouth-watering blueberry pie… Trust me, you haven’t lived till you’ve paired that with Bardin’s cinnamon spiced mead.
Rumor whispers of a fiercely loyal kitchen brigade, headed by Chef Olrin, an enigmatic half-elf with a flair for turning the mundane into the magnificent. A sprig of herb here, a dash of mysterious spice there, and voila, a dish fit for the courts of kings!
Speaking of Bardin, ah, the dwarf with a beard as frothy as his drinks! He doesn’t just serve drinks; he serves legends in a cup. Every mug comes with a story, and if you’re lucky, an anecdote about that time a gnome tried to outdrink an ogre.
Beside him, the radiant heart of this establishment, Marna. That woman could coax a smile out of a grumpy stone golem. With a knack for making everyone feel like they’ve returned home, I reckon she knows a spell or two about hospitality.
And then, there’s Maria. Delicate yet fierce, she’s a wonder. From the gnome settlement of Silverbrook, deep in the hidden canyon south of the falls, she graces us with tales from her home-caves. Her passion for wines and good smokes is only rivaled by her knack for befriending even the most peculiar of guests. Case in point, the evening a troll - lost, hungry, and irate - stumbled into The Willow. While the initial chaos sent mugs flying and patrons scurrying - you can see where its claws scratched through Old Martin’s fresco of The Blood Matriark’s Gift, changing the story, but in a sort of delightful way if you’ve enough imagination! - Maria, with an odd blend of calm and charisma, managed not only to soothe the beast but had him humming a gnome lullaby by the end of the night.
As the sun dozes off, The Willow becomes one of Eldergrove’s hidden respites for the lumberjacks returning from months long turns, to the little lords and ladies who’ve escaped their guards’ watch, to the clever beggars who’ve filled their purse, and plenty of strangers, enigmatic and boisterous from lands afar and deep in the Elderwood.
The melodious tunes, the boisterous tales, the foot-tapping beats – every corner is brimming with life. The tavern never closes and it seems there’s always someone raising a toast, although, in the wee hours of the morning, it’s mostly just itinerate owlbears and night-elves… and me.
There’s everything available for those who ride in the palanquin to those who carry it.
Ah, the rooms of The Willow – spaces of reprieve, reflection, and respite. Their variety is, in a way, a testament to the tapestry of life itself, where every thread finds its place, no matter how rich or rugged.
For the weary traveler, whose purse may be light yet spirit undeterred, the welcoming aroma of the stables often provides a humble berth. There’s a sweet, earthy smell that permeates these quarters, reminding one of simpler times and starlit journeys. It’s the scent of adventure, of roads taken and yet to be tread.
However, for those with deeper pockets and tastes honed by the refined alleys of royal courts, The Willow offers chambers that are nothing short of opulent. Silks from the distant East, in hues of gold, azure, and crimson, drape every possible corner. The gentle rustle of these fabrics, combined with the soft glow of enchanted lanterns, transports the occupant to a realm of sheer luxury, fit for the traveling ladies and lords who grace the realms aboard majestic palanquins.
But The Willow understands the diversity of its patrons. Between the rustic allure of the stables and the lavish embrace of silk-clad rooms, lie spaces of myriad designs. Some rooms are tailored for the minstrels, where soft melodies from an unseen lute might echo in the hush of dawn. Others, perhaps, are for the scholar, with sturdy oak desks and shelves lined with scrolls and tomes from yesteryears.
A unique feature, one that often stirs whispers among those who like to tread the fine line of legality, is the positioning of several rooms. Many hang precariously, albeit securely, just over the city wall. Their discreet balconies and hidden passages grant occupants a certain freedom – the ability to come and go without the watchful eyes of the city guard casting judgment. Such rooms have seen merchants and rogues, diplomats and spies, all seeking the subtle blend of discretion and luxury.
And in this labyrinth of chambers and halls, there’s my sanctuary – a secluded corner room. Neither opulent nor humble, it’s a space where the worlds meet. From its vantage, one can gaze upon the bustling heartbeats of Aurel’s Reach and, with a slight turn, lose oneself in the timeless embrace of the forest. It’s where musings turn to tales, and tales to legacies.
One might wonder, with the ceaseless inflow of patrons, from the giddy jester to the somber knight, how does The Willow maintain its allure? It’s in the details, my friend. From the gnome-crafted Glitterleaf Maria introduces to the curious, to the rumored ghost of a bard that serenades the lonely, The Whispering Willow isn’t just a tavern. It’s an experience, a journey, an ever-unfolding story in the heart of Aurel’s Reach.
So, if you ever find yourself in Aurel’s Reach and yearn for a night of stories, laughter, and perhaps a touch of mischief – or just a bellyful of fantastic grub – you know where to go. Tell them I sent you, but only if you leave good tips.
- Maria, Gnome Waitress AC: 12. HP: 10. Speed: 25 ft. STR: 8, DEX: 14, CON: 12, INT: 15, WIS: 14, CHA: 17. Skills: Persuasion +6, Insight +3.
- Marna, human innkeeper. AC: 12. HP: 10, Speed: 30 ft. STR: 10 DEX: 14 CON: 12 INT: 13 WIS: 15 CHA: 17. Skills: Persuasion +5, Insight +4 Actions: Slap: +2 to hit, reach 5 ft., one creature.
- Bardin, Dwarf Bartender AC: 11. HP: 10, Speed: 25 ft. STR: 14 DEX: 12 CON: 16 INT: 10 WIS: 13 CHA: 14. Skills: History +2, Perception +3.
A Glimpse into Maria’s Life
Among the tavern’s many vibrant personalities, Maria stands out, not for her stature - for she is but a gnome - but for her captivating presence and tales that trace back to the shadowy depths of Silverbrook.
Hailing from this neighboring gnome settlement, nestled in the heart of a forested canyon, Maria’s journey to Aurel’s Reach was driven by an unquenchable thirst for knowledge about wines. With dreams of one day returning to Silverbrook to establish her own tavern, she absorbs all she can from The Whispering Willow’s patrons and its vast cellar.
In the midst of her siblings - six in total - Maria’s role as the middle child has perhaps granted her the patience to listen and the flair to weave tales. Her stories, often exchanged for a patron’s own or even for a modest tip, add a unique flavor to the Willow’s nightly entertainment.
Whispers often circulate about Maria’s trove of trinkets, treasures gifted by travelers or picked up from distant lands. The centerpiece of this collection is a silver pendant of curious design. Though many have prodded, she remains tight-lipped about its origin, furthering the air of mystery around her.
Yet, her most prized possession is not a trinket but a tobacco, the rare Tobacco Glitterleaf. Unique to the shadowy alcoves of Silverbrook’s caves, this non-magical plant dazzles onlookers with its shimmer, a reflection of the mineral-rich soils of its birthplace. When smoked, it’s not just the tobacco that’s shared, but a time-honored gnome tradition symbolizing unity and deep contemplation. In the caverns of Silverbrook, amidst echoing tales and the play of dim lights, this tradition persists, a symbol of the enduring spirit and unity of the gnomish community.
At The Whispering Willow, Maria is not just a waitress but a bridge to a world unknown, a subterranean realm of stories, traditions, and the sparkle of Glitterleaf.
d20 Possible Patrons in the Tavern
- Old Thom: A wrinkled man recounting tales of dragons. Hook: He once stole a dragon egg and it’s about to hatch.
- Lila the Bird Lady: An elven woman speaking to her pet bird. Hook: The bird is a polymorphed prince.
- Bruun: A hefty man challenging folks to arm wrestling. Hook: His strength is from a cursed gauntlet.
- Lady Annelise: A noblewoman incognito, observing. Hook: She seeks a bodyguard for a covert mission.
- Fletcher: A man selling maps. Hook: One map leads to a forgotten city.
- Bria: A girl crying, lost from her family. Hook: Her family was abducted by goblins.
- Norgal: A half-troll boasting loudly. Hook: He wants to find and challenge his full troll father.
- The Hooded Figure: A mysterious entity in the shadows. Hook: They are a time traveler with a warning.
- Sir Cedric: A retired knight, now a drunk. Hook: His haunted past calls him for one last quest.
- Twins Lora and Lona: Synchronized in every action. Hook: They share a psychic bond due to a magical experiment.
- Faelan: A minstrel with a harp, avoiding eye contact. Hook: His songs can predict the future.
- Jara: A merchant selling odd seeds. Hook: These seeds grow into sentient plants.
- The Cursed Poet: Speaks only in rhymes. Hook: Needs help breaking a witch’s curse.
- Captain Elin: A sea captain recruiting. Hook: Her ship sails to the underworld and back.
- Lilith: A young woman, surrounded by cats. Hook: She’s seeking a rare herb for her ailing familiar.
- Merek the Mute: Communicates via drawings. Hook: His sketches can become real for a short time.
- Doran: A scholar looking exasperated. Hook: Accidentally awakened a slumbering entity in an old tome.
- Sera: A dancer with a snake. Hook: The snake is her twin, transformed by an enemy.
- Peldor the Jester: Cracking jokes. Hook: His humor hides a tragic story he’s willing to share for the right price.
- Glenna: A gardener with flowers. Hook: Her garden has a portal to the Feywild, and she needs protection.